Some say that for top athletes, the bottom line is the pay check. The million dollar athlete is more concerned with his mansion, fleet of cars, jewelry and all the other accoutrements of the jet setting life style that fame and fortune can bring.
Love of the game and an enlightened perspective on the world they live in are lost.
One athlete that deserves applause and respect for having the courage and integrity to place his own need for justice and fairness above the dollar signs is Gary Sheffield.
Shef has long taken heat for being outspoken. For telling it like it is. For having the compunction to put realness ahead of a pay check. His allegiance to self truth has cost him dearly. Management at many of his employers have had it out for him. Fans only get the "media's" reformed opinion of what he says. The context of his statements is reduced to sound bites. He is portrayed as angry and disagreeable.
The angry Negro. Unappreciative of all he has been "given".
Well, we are here to tell you. Shef is painted as such in an effort to marginalize the truths that he habitually unveils. Shef is portrayed as the bitter, angry Negro by MLB and the media in an effort to get the public to turn their collective backs on him and not listen to what he has to say.
Angry and disagreeable? Unappreciative of what he has been "given"? How about serious and contemplative. And so grateful for his blessings his hard work has led to that he feels the need to try to bring truth to baseball to make things better for the next generation. How about that?
Now, in an effort to bring to light the inner demons of the Yankee clubhouse and possibly lead to healing for the individuals that have been disrespected and abused over the years, Shef has said things that people simple don't want to hear. It isn't even about believing what he says. No one is questioning the veracity of his perspective. Essentially, the response is "oh, it's that angry Sheffield, tell him to quite down."
Thankfully, Sheffield has reached a status in the game that he can't be silenced. The truth can't be muted by disingenuous attempts to deflect his unquestionably accurate perspective of his take on events.
"Black players had an issue with Joe Torre," Sheffield said in the interview with HBO. "They weren't treated like everybody else. Even I got called out in a couple of meetings that I thought was unfair."
This is inarguable. Every word is completely true.
Sheffield is a Negro player. If he and another Negro player had a problem with Torre, then it is completely reasonable for Shef to say that Negro players had an issue with Torre. If Shef felt that Torre treated him unfairly, then Torre did.
This isn't about Joe Torre. This isn't about racism. Shef even said he didn't think Torre was racist. So those in the media trying to continue this abhorrent depiction of Shef as the angry Negro casually calling everyone a racist are simply wrong.
This is about the need for baseball to exam the way it treats Negro players. It is about the need for baseball to understand that it is not the intention of the action, but the perception of the action that matters. Did Torre willfully intend to slight Shef? Did he intend to treat Shef differently? Did he even actually treat Shef differently? Probably not. But that doesn't matter.
Shef felt as a Negro he was treated differently. That is indisputable. You can't argue how Shef felt. You can't say, "no, Shef, you don't feel as if Torre treats Negroes differently." And that is all that matters.
"When you're hearing from your manager that they should have gotten Vladimir Guerrero, that's disrespectful, but nobody ever came to my defense and said it was."
Imagine. You show up to a new employer, and all your supervisor does is talk about the guy he'd rather have in your place. That is the type of thing that could cause a sensitive man like Sheffield to get down on himself and question his self worth. That is the type of thing that can break a man. And, when the rest of the organization does nothing to defend the new employee/player, it leave that individual feeling like he is alone in this new world. And, throw in the final factor: The manager and the organization are white. The individual being disrespected and shown no support is Negro. What conclusion can one come to other than Negroes are treated differently? There is no other logical conclusion.
"I had a lot of one-on-ones with Joe," he continued. "I don't just jump to a conclusion on every issue. When he called me out in meetings, I tried to take a positive out of it. I talked it over with my wife and she said maybe he was doing it to make me an example for everyone else. I told her she might be right.
"But when it hit the papers, that he called me out in meetings, then it's a different ballgame and that's what happened."
And that is when it became clear to Shef that this wasn't simply about trying to improve the team. It was about disrespecting Sheffield and treating him, as a Negro, differently.
Sheffield has taken a lot of heat over the years for his willingness to quickly leave a team and move on to the next high paying situation. Has anyone every considered that it isn't about the money. That it is completely about respect and Sheffield's continuous search for a situation in which he won't perceive that he is being treated differently because he is a Negro? That, his short stays and constantly changing teams is a quest for acceptance and a continued fight for the acceptance of Negro players in MLB?
We are so quick to laugh and belittle players when they hold out or complain about contracts. Especially when they say "this isn't about money, this is about respect".
Until you have been a Negro, belittled by Joe Torre in front of the mostly white Yankees, you will never understand how true it is.
And we wonder why the Negro community is losing interest in baseball.